Published in Groove Guide March 2013 and www.grooveguide.co.nz
Groove Guide has a good old natter with Eagles guitarist and founding band member Glenn Frey.
Ok, so where are you?
Well I’m here in my studio, the Doghouse, it’s in LA. We recorded (the Eagles) A long Road out of Eden here. It’s been around about 15 or 16 years or so.”
“This is where I recorded my new album (After Hours). It’s different from my previous rock stuff. I wanted to do material from the Great American Songbook. My Dad’s 91 and my Mum is 87. I wanted to record something from their day – from the 1930’s to the 1960’s. I think at this point in my career I could do something honest, and take a bit of a risk.
What was behind the idea for the new album?
“Richard (Davis) and Michael Thomson and I started looking up these songs on Youtube and we were arranging them, in the studio on piano. We would break them down, work out the orchestra parts and what knot. I wanted songs that a really great, that I really loved like “For Sentimental Reasons” and Burt’s “The Look of Love”. There’s “Route 66” which (he hums the chorus) is a great, enduring sort of rhythm… and there’s (Una Mae Carlisle’s) “Getting old before my time”. I like that a cocktail hour song. Yes, a sort of lounge feel.”
Lounge and Jazz seem miles from your earlier stuff?
“There was music in our house, mainly what my parents like and I had plenty of pop on the radio so I went that way…I had early bands like the Hideouts (later the Subterraneans) which were all about being a teenager with a guitar. I could play a bit and that helped. Pop was the way to go. But I’ve always like the old stuff, too – especially the jazz standards. There are tracks by Tony Bennett, and Dinah Washington – like “I wanna cry” and Peggy Lee, America’s sweet heart. At night you just want sit down and chill out and listen to these great songs.”
“The Eagles were a radio friendly band. We were lucky with that. It’s what sold, too. Back then (in the 70’s) radio was king. But it was also big in the earlier years and those songs (from my album After Hours) are all about the killer radio days, too“
The Eagles were almost early Americana – Musicians seem to look back to the earliest roots of their country to find their identity when things are bad.
“I know what you mean about musicians wanting to look back (to the folk era), what they are calling Americana – that thing of looking back (to find some core identity to hang on to in modern depression ravaged, globalised America). I’m not sure that’s the case though. In the 70’s we were sort of stealing from our forefathers. Country and AOR was popular on FM radio, where album tracks got played. You could be more experimental, too.”
Are you defined by your earlier music, like “Hotel California”?
“That song – it was a demo that Eagles guitarist Don (Felder) wrote. He’d given us plenty of ideas since he’d joined but always without lyrics. But this one had room to write something. We were interested. We called it ‘Mexican Reggae’. That was the working title.”
“Don (Henley) and me wrote most of it (the lyrics). We all drove into L.A. in the evening. Nobody was from California but if you drive in to Los Angeles in the evening you see this glow on the horizon of lights (like the Arctic lights, sort of). Don and I were thinking of Hollywood, all those dreams of being a big star. So we got the messages of drugs booze and all that stuff that was so excessive in the 70’s. We wrote ‘Life in the Fast Lane’ and ‘Wasted Time’ and other songs based on those trips.”
“Yes we became the occupants…the guests of Hotel California. But, you know, it was a first time for everything. When you’re young, everthing’s on your radar. We tried it. There’s a first time for everything and a last!”
“And, you’re right, the Eagles got big. We were, as you say, part of that thing (the record industry juggernaut). But that was how it worked then. You were part of that world then. It was all very exciting and we were along for the ride.”
“I am humbled some times when, like you say, you hear of your stuff being sung (by a school choir, at a wedding, etc.) It’s great to know that the Eagles songs are part of people’s lives. Yes, they own them now.”